Ma Jaya tells all who come to her ashram that what is practiced there is not a religion, but if there was a religion that is followed, it is the religion of kindness. She further describes herself: “I am a Jew and I will always be a Jew – a Jew who bows to the feet of my Christ; a Jew who is a Hindu and follows the monkey god of service, Hanuman; a Jew who loves the true tantra of man into God; a Jew who is a devotee of Mother Kali; a Jew who is the disciple of Neem Karoli Baba; a Jew who worships the Buddha and tries to follow his life of compassion, love, and kindness; a Jew who listens to the ancient teachings at the feet of one of the Sikh gurus, Guru Hargobind.” Ma Jaya clearly proclaims an interfaith concept of spirituality with these words. She feels she can share her spirituality with anyone, no matter who you believe in or even if you are atheist.
Ma Jaya’s life changed in 1972 with a series of visions of Jesus Christ, Swami Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, Shirdi Sai Baba, Ramana Maharshi and finally of her Guru, Neem Karoli Baba. In India it was not unknown for a woman to become a spiritual leader via mystical experiences like these. In America it was close to unknown. Ma worked diligently to follow the Christ’s words to her to “teach all ways,” and to translate the Hindu spirituality she was taught into concrete form. Seva (selfless service) became a foundation of her spiritual teachings. In 2006 she became the first American to receive the honored Hindu title of Mata Maha Mandaleshwar. The title means ‘one who has crossed the ocean of bliss’ and is normally reserved for senior male abbots.
In a day of increasing separation among religious sects, Ma Jaya’s oral teachings reflect her interfaith commitment. She seamlessly shares her learning using Christian Bible quotes, examples from her Jewish upbringing, Hindu religious terms, or illustrations from Buddhist, Zen, and Sikh religions. She encourages leaders from other disciplines to sit with her students, to answer their questions, leaders like Rabbi Zalman H. Schacter-Shalomi (commonly called Reb Zalman), Yogi Bhajan, Monsignor Matthew Ojara, and Tenzen Choegyal (the Dalai Lama’s brother).
In 1993 the Parliament of World Religions re-convened in Chicago, the first time it had met in a century, and Ma Jaya was invited to participate. There she met the Dalai Lama, who later gave her the Tibetan spiritual name of Tenzen Yangchen in 1998. Ma’s oral presentation and activity in the Parliament’s plenary sessions brought her to the attention of the world’s spiritual community and she was asked to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Parliament. She accepted. She became a keynote speaker at the 1999 Parliament’s Inaugural Ceremony in South Africa. Ma was a delegate to the United Nation’s Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in 2000. She was called upon to deliver the keynote address to the Interfaith Youth Assembly at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City. She’s been inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr., Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta and lectured on “The Hindu Diaspora” at the South Florida Hindu Temple in Fort Lauderdale. In 2004 she received the Interparliamentary Paradigm Peace Award. Others who have publicly praised Ma Jaya’s spiritual work include Nobel Peace Prize recipient Bishop Desmond Tutu, Swami Satchidananda, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, and Munemichi Kurozumi.
Ma Jaya challenges past notions of gurus, spiritual teachers, female religious figures, and the nature of religious leadership in America. She is highly accessible to both her followers and to those are in need through, intensives, workshops, public lectures, and open teachings on her interfaith ashram in Sebastian, FL. Ma Jaya does not proselytize or look for converts, preferring to let her actions and the service work of her followers speak for her. She openly shares secrets and teachings that for centuries have been limited to “only the select few.” Her Kali Natha Yoga and her latest book The 11 Karmic Spaces are prime examples of this sharing.